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Chapter

Cover Origins and Evolution of the European Union

14. The European Union  

A Constitutional Order in the Making

Berthold Rittberger

This chapter examines how the European Union acquired distinctive constitution-like features. It begins with a discussion of three routes to constitutionalization: the first is through changes in the EU's primary law; the second focuses on ‘in between’ constitutionalization; and the third leads directly to the European Court of Justice and its jurisprudence. The chapter proceeds by discussing two developments that have shaped the EU constitutional order almost since the beginning: the emergence of a body of EU law constituting a set of higher-order legal rules, and the consolidation of the constitutional principle of representative democracy. It explains how the supremacy and direct effect of EU law, as well as the EU court's concern with the protection of fundamental rights, helped transform the EU into a constitutional polity. It also considers how the extension of the legislative, budgetary, and other powers of the European Parliament animated the constitutional principle.